The entirety of Scripture points us to Jesus and God’s saving activity through Him. Like every book in the Bible, Jesus shines brightly in the book Acts. As Luke recounts the birth and rapid expanse of the Church, he keeps Jesus as the focal point and brings us face to face with the uniqueness of His person and work and continued activity through the Holy Spirit. The task of the pastor as he preaches through the book of Acts is to exalt Christ as He is portrayed in the text.
Jesus is the Risen and Exalted One
Luke begins Acts with the ascension of Jesus. This One who suffered and died for the sins of his people according to the plan of God (2:23), has been raised by God and exalted to the Father’s right hand (2:33). He now rules and reigns from there even over his enemies (2:35). His resurrection and exaltation, clearly identify Him as the One in whom salvation is found (4:11-12), the One who will judge the world in righteousness (10:42; 17:30-31), and the one who will restore all things at the proper time (3:21). He is both Lord and Christ (2:36), and soon returning king (1:11). In our preaching, we appeal to people to repent and believe in this One who is to be trusted, obeyed and served with the entirety of our lives.
Jesus is the Giver of the Holy Spirit
Jesus’ command to his small band of followers before his ascension was to “wait for the promise of the Father,” namely, the baptism with the Holy Spirit (1:4-5). Jesus would send the Holy Spirit upon His disciples, and the Spirit would empower them to be His witnesses (1:8). This promise is fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit upon His people. All were filled with the Spirit and boldly proclaimed the mighty works of God (2:1-11, 33). This outpouring is repeated numerous times in the book of Acts both upon new converts (8:17; 10:44) and upon believers who receive a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit to boldly witness (Acts 4:8,31; 7:56; 13:9). Jesus still pours the Holy Spirit out upon his Church to assure the Church of God’s love and presence and to empower the Church’s witness in the world. This happens in varying measures. In certain times and in certain places, Jesus has been pleased to pour out the Holy Spirit on His Church and bring about tremendous results. This is the key to revival and something we should long for and promote among our congregations. The Church is in desperate need today for a fresh outpouring of God’s Spirit. All of our preaching, teaching and leading will accomplish little and lasting fruit apart from the divine enabling of God’s Spirit. It is not enough to have good orthodoxy if it lacks life, vibrancy, and power that comes from the Holy Spirit. The state of the world is such that only a Church filled with the Spirit is sufficient to address it.
Jesus is the Builder of His Church
Jesus promised his disciples that He would build His Church and nothing would ever prevail against it. The book of Acts unfolds that undefeatable building project. Luke gives us periodic updates on the rapid growth of the Church in Jerusalem (2:41; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7). As persecution is unleashed against the Church, the Church is scattered from Jerusalem. However, it does not fold. The Church expands as those who were scattered went about preaching the gospel, reaching entire cities and villages (8:8, 25). In Acts 9, the risen Christ appears to Saul of Tarsus, the great persecutor of the Church. He is miraculously converted, filled with the Holy Spirit, and raised up as Jesus’ chosen instrument to take the Gospel to Gentile world (9:15-19). Jesus takes his greatest enemy and lays hold of his life, for His grand purposes. Paul’s apostolic ministry, directed by Jesus, spreads the Gospel and starts churches all over the Greco-Roman world (16:6-10; 18:9-11). As Paul preached the Gospel, the Lord opened people’s hearts to respond (16:14) and the Church advanced. The Book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome under house arrest. However, the gospel is unchained as Paul preaches about the Lord Jesus with boldness unhindered. Jesus is still building His Church today through the preaching of the Gospel by Spirit-filled people who live with bold and unhindered faith. Those given the charge to preach and lead in the Church should do so with the confidence that Jesus has promised to build his church and will overcome every obstacle raised up against that end.
As you preach the book of Acts, remember to hold Jesus up high. The Holy Spirit loves to bring glory to Jesus and loves to empower preaching that seeks to bring glory to Jesus.
About: JR Vassar (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) serves as lead pastor at Church at the Cross in Grapevine, Texas. From 2005 to 2013, he served as the founding and lead pastor of Apostles Church in New York City. JR and his wife, Ginger, have three children. He is the author of Glory Hunger: God, the Gospel, and Our Quest for Something More.